In several circumstances, adding an extra shift per day to a manufacturing plant is often a sure fire indication that the business is growing to meet expanding market demands.
This is where certain questions arise as to the way a plant should be configured to make a successful transition into perhaps a 24/7 operation, particularly in the growing global market.
Australia can supply products to a high quality and to specific quantities which are otherwise hard to obtain from many other countries.
Because jobbing shops and sheetmetal fabricating plants represent a large slice of the Australian manufacturing market, there has been a lot of discussion in recent times as to how to go about this.
Factory materials handling is an almost open-ended concept. With so much available out there to automate and robotise, computerise, and in general, find ways of speeding up accurately all aspects production, it is easy for any of the small and medium size businesses (SMEs) to be confused on the issue.
A 24/7 operation is a realistic thing. The days are gone when businesses are expected to employ an entire extra team of people to work a night shift just to get full production through the doors.
Also, we have gladly moved away from that artificial paranoia that automation stepping in to take over much of the factory materials handling will cause loss of jobs.
It is now vividly clear that not only has automation done the opposite, certainly for the jobbing shops and larger fabricators, which may employ anywhere from 10 people to 1000 people. It has also created a positive scenario where they have been upskilling staff and redeploying them into more technical roles, thus benefiting the Australian workforce in general.
Long-standing automation specialist, Advance Sheetmetal Technologies, has tracked a definitive shift towards factory materials handling because the market has worked out that the technology provides perhaps the only way to stay ahead amid fluctuating raw materials prices.
Advance Sheetmetal Technologies, right across the country, even in the supposed sleepier market of South Australia, there has been a huge shift towards automating the materials handling in fabrication plants, and it is not just for safety reasons.
Safety has always been a big concern and has been appropriately addressed; now a general awareness in the importance of automation has been galvanised right across the country not just by the companies but also industry bodies which all seem to agree in the automation revolution.
On an economic level, Advance Sheetmetal Technologies has always viewed automated materials handling in its factories as an emerging choice but now it is seen as an affordable reality. The shortage of quality steel around the world has forced up sheetmetal prices and this has been the clincher.
Automation has developed so that even small companies can have non-manual materials handling and thus produce for export markets if they are clever enough.
But being clever does not mean taking a stab in the dark. Automated materials handling can be quantified. Comprehensive cost analysis can and should be done on any type of automation to see if it will slot in profitably within a company's existing framework and growth strategy.
This means an overall confidence is gained from knowing that profit margins can be positively manipulated in the face of rising sheetmetal costs. It is of enormous benefit to the confidence of Australian fabricators.
The amazingly fast development of China is driving the growth in demand for steel. International analysts announced that in the first half of 2006 its production of specialty steels containing vanadium grew by 22.5 percent, far outpacing the growth in total crude steel production.
And this represents just a specialty steel. Also fuelling the hunger for this raw material have been various large-scale developments in the Middle East which further strained the demand/supply ratio.
The Macquarie Bank has forecast that total world steel production will grow at an annual rate of 5.8 percent to 2010, with China increasing its share to 40 percent by then.
This paints a significant picture of the years ahead. Now there is a plethora of machines and software to drive them as well as general materials handling solutions to give the overall efficiency.
Advance Sheetmetal Technologies has been in this market for a long time and confidently says that never before has it seen such an array of materials handling automation available in this country.
And this ranges all the way across the spectrum from simple hand operated machines to top-end, high-speed, high accuracy and high output, software driven technology.
Cost analysis the key. As mentioned above, the full picture is there upfront before making investment and with the economics in place a business can easily become a 24/7 operation without taking any significant risks.
Despite the unjustified gloomy comments from mainstream business press about the manufacturing industry, the SMEs in particular know that under the global market a massive potential exists for our companies to grow cleverly, provided the precise analysis has been done to set up correctly.
Automation suppliers in Australia cover virtually every requirement for factory materials handling with good solution sources from all parts of the world alongside the good makes in Australia.
In Advance Sheetmetal Technologies’ wide-ranging fabrication sector, many companies know that they are at the crossroads where they can go to 24/7, but they need the right guidance, and also a little confidence.
International demands for products fabricated from steel are going through the roof and our companies have been identified as high-quality suppliers.
SMEs now have a good opportunity to become full time players in many export markets.
Take the chance, but do the figures first to make sure the what if scenario is right on the mark.